Islamabad: Pakistan will provide COVID-19 vaccines free of charge to its citizens when one becomes available, the government has said. Pakistan will begin vaccinating people against the coronavirus by the second quarter of 2021, said Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid.
Government hopes to procure vaccines by April 2021
The government decided to fully fund the coronavirus vaccines to ease the burden and suffering of the people during the pandemic, said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health Dr Faisal Sultan. The health ministry hopes to procure COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021 after considering multiple factors including the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and side effects, storage requirements, cost and production capacity of the manufacturer.
Who will get the vaccine first?
“Pakistan’s frontline healthcare workers will be at the top of the vaccine priority list. In the second stage, the elderly and at risk-population will get the vaccine and lastly, the common people,” said Dr Faisal. Nearly 10 million people, or 5 per cent of Pakistan’s population, will be vaccinated in the first phase.
Pakistan approves $150m grant to buy COVID-19 vaccine
Pakistan government recently allocated $150 million grant for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine to ensure timely access and availability of doses after approval from Prime Minister Imran Khan. While Pakistan has not yet named any specific firm, the health officials have begun negotiations with two vaccine manufacturers.
Vaccines from GAVI
Pakistan has also signed up for COVAX and GAVI, global alliance for vaccine immunisation aimed at equitable access to safe and effective vaccines worldwide, and expects to receive between 20 million – 45 million coronavirus vaccines.
Vaccine clinical trials in Pakistan
Meanwhile, thousands in Pakistan have joined the final phase of clinical trials of two Chinese vaccines including the one developed by CanSinoBio and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology China. Millions of doses of the vaccine will be sent to Pakistan on a priority basis after final evaluation from China.
COVID-19 vaccines worldwide
At least three vaccine candidates have shown promising results and appeared to be highly effective against coronavirus – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford. Pakistan hopes to procure doses of both the western and the Chinese vaccines. However, some experts have underlined that unlike the Pfizer vaccine that has its sub-zero storage requirements, the Chinese single-dose vaccines can be transported in “normal temperatures” making it a “suitable choice for Pakistan”.
Daily cases continue to surge
Pakistan has witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases and fatalities in recent weeks. On December 2, at least 3,499 new cases and 39 deaths were reported, bringing the total number of cases to 406,810. The South Asian country has re-imposed smart lockdowns, banned public gatherings and indoor dining and closed schools till January to contain the second wave of virus.